Mothers came together in Portland, Ore., to form a human shield — a Wall of Moms — to protect activists protesting the treatment of Black people in the U.S.
Protests over police brutality and racial inequality in the wake of George Floyd‘s death have been ongoing for more than 50 days.
Most recently, video has shown masked, camouflaged federal authorities without identification in unmarked vehicles arresting protesters at night, often violently.
Many have been seen sporting military-style fatigues with the word “police” on them, but no badge numbers or identifying information.
In response, groups of mothers banded together to protect activists, declaring: “Feds stay clear, moms are here.”
“They are calling themselves Momtifa,” author and activist Ben Phillips tweeted on Sunday. A video he shared shows dozens of moms linking their arms together.
In a followup tweet, a video shows the group of mothers singing “hands up, please don’t shoot me” — a version of Black Lives Matter rally cry “hands up, don’t shoot” — in the style of a lullaby.
“Impossible to watch and not cry,” Phillips tweeted.
Portland mom Bev Barnum said she was inspired to act after watching videos of the protests on Friday night.
“It didn’t take long for me to find a massive array of video displaying obvious human rights violations,” she told CNN. “But I thought I needed to do more so I asked the Portland working moms group to protest with me, to shield the protesters from harm with our ‘mombods.'”
Barnum, who is Mexican American, is the founder of activist group Wall of Moms, a collection of mothers who work together to protect activists. She teamed up with Don’t Shoot Portland, an advocacy group.
Around 70 mothers, including Barnum, gathered outside the federal courthouse over the weekend in a protest line, CNN reported.
“We are just amplifying (Don’t Shoot Portland)’s message,” Rebecca, another mom who joined Barnum, told CNN. She did not want her last name used out of fear of retaliation.
“Parents have always been out there protesting. Black mothers have been doing this forever trying to get justice for their children.”
By Sunday, CNN says, more than 200 women joined the Wall of Moms movement.
According to Barnum, federal authorities came out of the courthouse on Saturday night and “started shooting.”
“I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Barnum said. “Traumatic doesn’t even begin to describe it.”
Portland police used tear gas on multiple occasions until a federal court order banned them from doing so without declaring a riot. Now, anger is building as federal officers deploy tear gas.
The Wall of Moms was joined by PDX Dad Pod, who wielded leaf blowers on Monday night to help disperse the tear gas, The Associated Press reported.
“We’ll stop when there is no protester that needs our protection,” Barnum told CNN. “We get thanks every which way. But we’re not doing it for the thanks.
“We’re doing it to protect human rights.”
— With files from Global News reporter Rachel D’Amore and The Associated Press